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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I was labelled Kafir, Joho says on bid to end extremism in Mombasa

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho outside Chandaria Hall in Mombasa, May 16, 2017. /BRIAN OTIENO
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho outside Chandaria Hall in Mombasa, May 16, 2017. /BRIAN OTIENO

Governor Hassan Joho has said he put his political career on the line to help restore peace between Muslims and Christians in Mombasa.

Joho said this in reference to November 2014, at time of heightened violent extremism in the county when Masjid Musa mosque in Majengo was raided by police officers.

The Governor said on Tuesday that he was branded a Kafir, which is Arabic for a non-believer. This was because he went to the Salvation Army Church near Masjid Musa which had been razed in protest against the police raid.

Joho was barred from accessing the mosque after announcing he would help rebuild the church.

"Naturally, I expected backlash from some of our people. But [that was] ignorance," he said. "At Musa, they used to [name me and say I was] their Kuffar number one."

He spoke on Tuesday during the launch of the Mombasa County Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (MCAP-PCVE).

Read; One shot dead, 8 grenades recovered in dawn raids at Musa, Sakina mosques in Mombasa

Joho told of a day when furious youths tried to harass him while he drove along Majengo streets.

"I was spotted by some youths who were sitting outside the mosque. They shouted ‘Wewe Kafiri! (You Kafir)’. I told the boys off saying they could not judge me. I told them they might find me in heaven and themselves in hell on judgement day."

The county boss said that in the Quran, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sent his people to a Christian King in Ethiopia for safety when they faced atrocities and that this demonstrated Christians and Muslims were not enemies.

Joho said the Prophet always had a message for the people.

“He would actually be told 'so and so is ahlul jahannam'. This is a man that would go to hell. But of course he was allowed to live his full life. Nobody would take away a life because [of deeming a person as opposed to a religion]," he said.

“And, therefore, I made a decision that it is not and cannot be Islamic to keep quiet while lives are lost. It dawned on me that we must co-exist. We don’t have a choice."

Days later, Joho narrated, the opportunity came to take over the management of the mosque but nobody was willing to do so. Radicalised youths who prayed at the mosque had chased the management committee away and taken over.

Joho said that at one of the many meetings at his office, a woman volunteered to take over the running of the mosque saying the men had become cowards.

It is unheard off and almost taboo for a woman to run a mosque.

“I saw an opportunity...that the voices of our mothers could be heard,” he said.

At that time, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir said leaders would take over the mosque and install him as the muezzin, Joho as the Imam and Senator Hassan Omar the gatekeeper.

"[That was how far matters went]. And that is when elders agreed to take over the mosque on condition they would be provided with security. Today, I walk in and out of the mosque anytime I want to pray, freely and happily because that is who we are."

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